Angola is an unlikely place for heavy metal, but a small scene has started to develop in the African country. The documentary ‘Death Metal Angola’ showed this to the world. One of those bands is Horde of Silence, who refuse to remain quiet in their homeland. The documentary showed how metal is taking root in this corner of the world, brilliantly showing its force.
Photos byJosé Alves
The country came out of a civil war in 2002 and peace hasn’t come cheap. A generation grew up with conflict and strife. The country is still recovering from the years of turmoil and people have been displaced. Metal music seems to be one of the most fitting forms of expression from people who have had a lot bad luck coming their way. This is a way to find their voice and identity once more
On behalf oof the band YannickMerino was kind enough to answer questions about Horde of Silence, Angola and metal music, so that the world may learn a bit about their refusal to remain silent.
Could you start by introducing yourselves and telling us how the band got started?
A: William Sazanga: Vocals, Denilson Jayro Cardoso: Guitar, William “Seth” Neto: Bass, Yannick Merino: Drums
The person that had the idea to startthe band was Edilson “Pagia” Chitumba (currently he’s the vocal / bass player for DorFantasma. He wanted a band with fast riffs and heavy tunes, similar to Divine Heresy. He invited Jayro, also from Dor Fantasma to join the band and the two called me to be on the drums. They asked me, because at the time I was one of the few drummers that was able to play fast double bass and blast beats.
We first met at a concert in Luanda, at King’s Bar, in February 2009. Jayro and Edilson went from Benguela to play with their band (Dor Fantasma). I was one of the organizers of the concert and I played in a band called LastPrayer (a Groove Metal band). Horde of Silence started at the end of 2009 when I moved to Benguela and we first played live in January 2010.
What bands inspired you to start playing this kind of music?
A: The bands that inspire us are Behemoth, DarkFuneral, Sodom, RottingChrist, My Dying Bride, CannibalCorpse, DivineHeresy, FearFactory.
How did you settle on this name, what does it mean to you?
A: This name was chosen by Denilson Jayro, it’s supposed to be contradictory, because we aren’t silent.
What is the theme in your music, what sort of stories are you telling the world?
A: We talk about religion, mythology, wars. The main focus in the songs is the Angolan culture, we talk about the different religions that are in the country and the Angolan mythology. The wars is a normal thing that most of the bands in here talk about, we exited a war in 2002 and some of us still feel some repercussions. We try to put our history, the things that we lived through in the past into the songs, the conflicts, the deaths, the mysticism…
So you’ve recorded a song for a split album ‘You Failed…. Now We Rule!!!’ with some of the bands from the Angola metal scene. Can you tell us how that record came to be?
A: All the bands that recorded ‘You Failed…. Now We Rule!!!’ are from CubeRecords. The idea was to each band record one song and tell Angola and the World that in Angola we have metal bands. It was a bit hard to record because we recorded in a home studio, but it was worthy.
How do you guys go about writing your music, who is responsible for what element of it?
A: The lyrics are the responsibility of the vocalist, as for the instrumental part, the main parts are done by Denilson Jayro and Yannick.
You’ve mentioned you are working on your first EP. What can we expect and how is the progress? Where will it be available?
A: We are working in the EP, it’s in a slow process but we expect that it will be done in the end of the year. We will launch it through Cube Records, but it’ll be online a bit later probably.
Angola’s scene got quite some attention thanks to the documentary ‘Death Metal Angola’. How has that impacted you guys as a band? Did it open doors for you guys?
A: It did open a few doors to the Angola bands, we receive some invitations to play in other countries, so has a lot of bands, such as Dor Fantasma (that’s Denilson Jayro main band), BeforeCrush, LastShout and many others.
What is super typical about metal from Angola?
A: The speed, the heaviness, the mosh pits , and especially the union that exists in the metal.
How did metal come to Angola, what was the thing that made the scene start and how big is this music where you are from?
A: I honestly do not even know how to respond to this, I know there were a few metal bands in the early 90’s, but the main scene here in rock was punk and hard rock. I think the metal bands start to came out because of the speed and the heaviness in style. In the 2010’s there was a boom on the metal bands, but right now is starting to fade a little bit, metal bands right now are not as much we would like to.
So do you have things available like rehearsal spaces, instruments, music stores, venues etcetera? Or how do you cope with the lack thereof.
A: In Angola to get good instruments is hard, especially for metal. Most of our instruments are bought outside of the country. In terms of rehearsal spaces are to limited, most of the bands (90%) rehearse in a part of their homes.
What do you feel is typical about the music scene you have over there. What is its beauty and what are its downsides? And how do you connect to metalheads from neighboring countries?
A: Most of the people in Angola dont listen to metal, they say that’s noise, so it’s difficult for us to show our thing. When we have the opportunity to do it, the people are amazed with our performance, and most of them ask if we are from another country hehehehehe. We connect to the metalheads in other countries through social media (Facebook, WhatsApp).
What sort of position does metal music have in your country now, how does society respond to it? Is there forms of censorship?
A: Its very low, the people in Angola prefer to listen to soft music, for most of them, Metal is noise. We are censored all the time, even by the local rockers, they state that we should play soft like Coldplay or U2. We only play in certain places at certain times, if we played another rock genre we would be more acceptable.
What other bands from Angola should people really check out (and why)?
A: You can check DorFantasma (Thrash Metal, they sign in Umbundu – a dialect from Angola) , Mvula (2 time winner for best rock band in Africa from AFRIMA), BlackSoul (winner of the best rock band in Angola from Angola Music Awards), SentidoProibido (winner of the first battle of the Bands), Singra, ProjectosFalhados, OvelhaNegra.
What future plans do you guys have right now?
A: Right now the plan that we have is to finish recording our EP.
Final question: If you had to compare your music to a type of food, a dish, what would it be and why?
A: That’s difficult, but we think it would be palm oil beans with grilled fish, because it’s a dish that represents a little bit what’s the Angolan culture, and we sign in our songs some elements of the Angolan Mythology.
Label: Gilead Media Band: Couch Slut Origin: United States
CouchSlut is an interesting band name, but it simply fits. You can almost sink into the rolling waves of sound like you do on a couch. This is useless information, but I’m trying to express how vast and full on the sound of this band is. The group from New York knows how to shock and hurt a crowd with their sound on Contempt.
Landing on the scene with a bang in 2014, their debut My Life As A Woman crushed. Not just the shocking artwork, but the whole sound of the band was mesmerizing. Somehow the gang sounds familiar, but also completely overwhelmingly new and free of any boundaries. This is grindjazznoise with fierce vocals for all I care, just listen to this amazing piece of music.
The music of Couch Slut often gets described as noise rock. I get that, but take it from me… that barely does justice to the ferocious hale storm of sound that assaults the listener who dares to just dip their toes in that maelstrom. Spiteful and abrasive, Couch Slut violently attacks with a saxophone blurting underneath a pile of pitch black noise on ‘Funeral Dyke’. The vocals of Megan Osztrosits are savage and full of fuming rage. It’s as if Converge is jamming with SkinnyPuppy at times, particularly on the battery that is titled ‘Company Picnic With Dust Off’. It has the intensity of grindcore and the bravado of punkrock, bringing a mixture of SonicYouth and Today is the Day to the table. I just try to give you a feel of what they are like here…
To me, the music of Couch Slut is a primitive piece of violence. The riffs are menacing, always offering anticipation that gets turned upside down in the end. The vocals are completely raw outbursts of emotion. They slap you in the face like cold water. Then suddenly there’s an almost militant rhythm to nod along to, like on ‘Summer Smiles’. The music sounds harsh and direct while retaining atmosphere and detail. The flagellating, distorted guitars build walls that crash into the listener. Are those fucking church bells on ‘Penalty Scar’?
The band uses various instruments that are not completely traditional in this sort of sound, but perhaps that is exactly how they manage to create a sound unlike any other. Every cranny and nook is filled with squealing, buzzing and hammering music, while the frantic vocals of Ostrosits keep on coming. From start to end, this is a record of catharsis and punishing force. Both smartly done and with a brawn, Couch Slut leaves no contenders in violent music standing.
Label: An Out Recordings Band: Ragana Origin: United States
What attracted me to Ragana originally was their Lithuanian name. It means as much as a witch, though the concept of a witch is different in Lithuania. The duo behind this name is American and they define their style as ‘witch doom’. Maria and Nicole started out in Washington, but currently reside in Oakland and are very active in following their ideals. Taking inspiration from Wolves in the Throne Room, CatPower and Earth, they started a metal thing. Oh, and Julie Christmas.
Kim Kelly captured the band best in her article on Noisey. The duo is described as being anarcho-feminists and ‘You Take Nothing’ is an emotion laden, furious cry of protest. Though I can appreciate the politics behind the album, I think Kim’s article better expressed that. Let me just take you to the music. I have a ton of respect for the powerful way these ladies present their idea on a record that absolutely shatters everything in its raw directness.
Opener ‘Spare No Man’ has all the grim force of a post-black metal/post-hardcore hybrid. Crushing riffs, that spill out like gritty rubble of toppling buildings. The desperate screams and howls feel like a serrated knife to the heart in their forceful message. The way genres blend together into one powerful outlet, feels to me akin to when I first heard Converge or maybe even a little bit Deafheaven. It feels new, exciting and overwhelming. The sinister, creeping opener of ‘To Leave’ even puts some Brand New in the mix. The song is both fragile and beautiful, but also sad and mournful.
Though Ragana clearly taps into the black metal sound, they’re never really fully there. On ‘Winter’s Light’, we even go to a more dreamy, trickling sound. When the icy guitar kicks in, it’s clear and clean. You’ll find that typical blast beat and static riff combo indeed, but there’s a vulnerability to it, it’s so open and raw at times that you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The way the vocals are delivered on the foreboding ‘Somewhere’ is tantalizing, it grabs you by the throat.
Ragana delivers an album, that is so powerful in its punkrock simplicity. It’s not trying to sell you concrete ideas but conveys a feeling, a message that otherwise remains misunderstood. You can feel your skin crawl during some tracks, during the odd passages of jagged guitars and submersion in the eerie atmosphere. When the haunting ‘You Take Nothing’, which is the endlessly repeated phrase that makes up the song, fades away… It leaves you with a cut you can’t heal.
Every year Roadburn selects a curator, who gives shape to a part of the program. This has lead to excellent and wild acts, that you might never have seen before and perhaps will never see again (G.I.S.M., just to name one). In this post, I’d like to suggest my pick for a curator and explain why.
Who? You might not be familiar with Hank Williams III, but the name should ring a bell. Hank 3 is the third generation Williams who plays a huge role in country music. His grandfather was the famous Hank Williams, that had a huge impact on country (and there’s an uncanny likeness between Hank I and Hank III), a son of Hank Williams Jr. who I’m less fond of I suppose.
Hank 3, as he’s commonly known by his own accomplishments, has been dabbling in a wide range of music styles. Sure, outlaw country and cowpunk are at the core of his endeavors, but there’s so much more. He collaborated with both the Melvins and Willie Nelson, recorded with Superjoint Ritual and Arson Anthem and dabbled with country metal in his own project Assjack. His solo releases even contain some southern style doom. All of this comes back in his live set, where I’ve seen him do 3 hours of various styles. An artist through and through. So why should he curate Roadburn?
1. Musical Outlaw
Firstly, Hank 3 is a musical outlaw, who seems to see no real boundaries for his art and has chosen to follow his own path. That means he’s the sort of guy, who can decide on some names based on his own judgment. That’s pretty much why curatorships are so cool because someone is really laying down their unique flavor. Hank is a punk rocker at heart, a metalhead by passion and a country musician by blood. Think about it, this guy will surprise you.
Hank 3 is an outlaw in all scenes he is part of, he’s an outsider artist in a way and therefore a bridge builder between scenes, styles, and people. And Roadburn is all about that big ‘ol cocktail of great music, regardless of labels. Music that comes from the underground, which is pretty much where Hank 3 is from. Though he might be a bit busy being pissed off about that Hank Williams biopic still… (to be fair, Tom Hiddleston doesn’t sing a good ol’ Hank Williams).
2. Innovator in his own right
Most curators Roadburn had this far, are people who did something special for music. People that pushed the boundaries of their respective genres, innovators, and people with quite a big portfolio of musical endeavors. Also, these are usually people that don’t follow familiar paths and go their own way when they do something.
Though Outlaw Country has gone in various new directions in recent years and artists like Bob Wayne actually played Roadburn (and much more actually), Hank 3 definitely had been a force that shook up the whole thing and quite possibly the inspirator behind a lot of that new movement. That in itself makes him an important musician. He put the dick back in ‘Dixie’ and the cunt back in ‘country’ as is written on many places. So that matters.
3. Hank is a crate digger
Roadburn is a festival that draws a lot of record loving visitors. This is something that matters, not just for the fans, but also to Walter. Walter buys a lot of records and always manages to conjure something special out of crates, wherever he goes it seems. Anyone doing curatorship at Roadburn should, therefore, be a crate digger. Hank 3 has a bit of a collection himself.
4. A long tradition of surprising names at Roadburn
Roadburn never puts anything on the bill that you expect. The same goes for the curators. Every year people are excited for the novelty, the surprise or whatever the choice of that year does to them. Wouldn’t it be an excellent surprise to get this complete outsider dude to curate then? Every year you get something you didn’t expect in a direction you feel sort of curious about. I think it might be really interesting to see this happen. Hank 3 seems to have been largely accepted by the punk community as much as metal fans, so wouldn’t Roadburn embrace the man too?
But as you know, Roadburn works in mysterious ways and when the curator for 2018 is announced I’ll probably be jumping out of my seat and shouting praise for that choice. That’s how it works, isn’t it?
And with some great, folkish riffs you’re immediately captured by these Danes. Slaegt caught some mild controversy on social media with their peculiar cover design. Any PR is good PR, right? Funnily enough, the symbol is a combination of a 4 times the same symbol from Astrid Lindgren’s book ‘Brothers Lionheart’. It’s the symbol of the tyrant Tengil and the band has made it their own. The group feels a connection to the story, the opposing of said tyrant. Hence the symbol.
For the Danish group, this is their second full length after 2015’s ‘Ildsvanger’. The sound of the band has clearly shifted from the black metal sound to a blend with a heavy metal flavor. Unlike bands such as Rebel Wizard, the sound of Slaegt moves in a much more regal direction. It is as if their music connects the epic German sound with Northern black metal on this record.
The guitarwork is often very clean, so you can hear how the riffs weave the pattern of some kick ass songs. Slaegt sounds vital, urgent and surprisingly catchy at times. Sure, the vocals are of the barked, ferocious sort, but you get both worlds here. At times the band sounds pretty much like a black metal band, with the thick waves of atmospheric minor tones. Those lingering bits of darkness, tremolo guitar play and drum battery you hear for example on ‘Egovore’. Still the mix is slightly different, which leaves a lot of space for some melodic passages.
I just have to highlight some songs for you, because those illuminate the splendid formula of these Danish musicians best. ‘The Tower’ is definitely one of their coolest songs; weeping guitars, a foreboding bit of play to rival Metallica and Opeth. There’s nothing showy about it though, no weird complexities. Just great metal music.
On ‘Burning Feathers’ we have an omnious piano intermezzo. It holds up the atmosphere, without trying too hard. Maybe my favorite track is the final one (the title track). The galloping rhythm, the fierce singing and the oh so catchy guitar lines. And it lasts almost 14 minutes. The speed dwindles a bit later in the song, for some of those screaming guitar parts, that remind you of classic heavy metal. This album is just a joy to listen to really.
Label: Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records Band: Jute Gyte Origin: United States
I’ve written before about the music of JuteGyte, which I wrongly wrote as Jute Gryte at the time. The fascinating thing about Jute Gyte is that the music made by Adam Kalbach, the sole member, is highly experimental. He makes listeners aware of a whole distinct musical movement that apparently exists. A movement exploring music’s unknown.
The result of that is often that the music of Jute Gyte is very much an acquired taste. It listens as an oddity for the listener thanks to complexity, wealth of uncommon sounds and droning core. ‘The Sparrow’ is the latest release by the, dare I say, avant-garde musician with a knack for the extreme. With just two songs, this is one hell of a ride.
The start of ‘The Sparrow’ should have been called ‘The Bees’, since that is the feeling of the song. A buzzing, droning festival of intensity hits the listener. Dissonant and almost on a pitch that simply annoys the hell out of you, the track soon reaches the point where roaring vocals disturb the droning. After a few minutes we vind a break, where just eerie sounds fill the sonic void left behind. After minutes of slithering sounds, a more tumultuous, cascading sound develops. Just under twenty minutes, the track hardly gets dull or unsurprising in its intensity.
As soon as you start putting Jute Gyte in the noise category, you realise that there is always a structure. Structure that is hard to determine because it is so different to what you know. ‘Monadanom’ is the second track with an almost equal length. Lacking the ferocious passages of the former, this track is a continuing drone fest of atonal, disjunctured passages launched into the distance. At some parts it sounds soothing and melancholic, in others it’s simply uncomfortable. But that is what the music of Jute Gyte does, it will force its presence upon you as a listener. That is what makes it so brilliant.
Label: Bindrune/Nordvis Origin: United States Band: Falls of Rauros
The band FallsofRauros has a lot going for them. Firstly, their name is a Tolkien reference, which always resonates with me. Secondly, their music rates as black/folk metal on various sites (though you can disagree on the terminology, I think it covers their sound well). Also they’re politically charged, citing anarchism as a theme.
This all would not even be necessary, for the Appalachian folk wink in their sound puts them on par with Panopticon and do I love that band. This is the fourth album by the group from Portland in the States, following ‘Believe In No Coming Shore’ from 2014. Artwise, the band takes a move away from their more nature depicting covers with something a bit more fantastic. Also good to have some new material, after all the re-releases ofcourse.
On opener ‘White Granite’, you immediately hear the combination of beautiful melodies, maybe almost a bit of stadium rock, with scorching vocals. The constantly walk the thin line between beauty and grimness, somehow very akin to nature in that sense. This is not a bad thing though, because the band completely in a natural way finds their path through the different sounds and builds layers upon layers of riffs and expressions to create their specific brand of black metal. There’s a densely emotional side to songs like ‘Warm Quiet Centuries of Rains’, something truly soothing.
Album highlight is, I think, the track ‘Arrow & Kiln’. It shows Falls on their more heavy end. More massive and cohesive than the rest of the album and therefor in 12 minutes being the song that exemplifies the album. It contains all the strong sides of the band in one go. Great stuff!
On final track ‘Impermanence Streakt Through Marble’ the band completely lets go of the black metal and trickling folky tunes, acoustic play and shoegazy meanderings lead the song forward. When the music gets some more weight after two minutes, this still feels like a beautiful postrock tune, evoking a certain sadness. Vocals come on a bit later, but for me those were not even needed (though they do give the song some body).
Romania often gets less credit than it deserves, but the country has a wealth of history and a pretty intense and intriguing metal scene. Many interesting sounds come from that neck of the woods, and one of them is the band named Bucovina. A thriving folk metal project with a distinct flavor to it.
Bucovina is also a region of the country, which the band is named after.In the east of Europe, Romania often gets lumped in with other countries as part of the Eastern block. That’s a shame, since the country definitely has a history of its own. The region called Bucovina is part of that but due to history’s unfolding events, it is now part of Ukraine.
Florin “Crivăţ” Ţibu is the man behind the group. Crivat was willing to answer some questions over email, which took quite some time due to various reasons. I’m glad to say that he really gives a lot of information.
Could you kindly introduce yourself and tell what your role is in the band?
Hi there, I am Crivat, I play guitar and vocals in Bucovina and I am the mastermind that put everything together.
How did you guys get into metal?
They say that it’s metal that finds you, not the other way around, haha. Each of us, back in the day, happened to listen to the right song and meet the right people. Honestly, it’s almost impossible to describe what exactly got us into metal, but we’re ever so glad it happened. On the other hand, what KEEPS us into metal is the fact that we really enjoy what we do.
How did Bucovina get started? What were your inspirations, both musical as well as thematic?
I started the band after I went to college, with the bass player from the bands I had back in highschool. I’d say that the biggest thing that made me want to have a band and write music was Vintersorg’s first CD, the Hedniskhjartad EP. I was struck when I had listened to it for the first time and felt like there are things that needed to be said through music I could write.
The first Bucovina tracks were mixture of viking/norse/pagan/call-it-what-you-like and black metal, even though it was obvious since that early stage that we might not fall that easily into just one category. Then things evolved, yet we’re still dealing with a lot of influences, most likely because we have different backgrounds.
As for the lyrics, they go from nature, philosophy, old lore and magic, to more mundane themes, but they all relate in one way or another to whatever purpose human existence has in the universe, and how the noblest goal is to be able to understand at least minute fractions of all that existed, exists or will exist.
You combine a folkish sound with metal. What is the reason or motivation you chose to go this way with your music?
Again, it was music choosing us; and we’re lucky for this, because we don’t feel like „hey, let’s write a song like X, or Y, or Z.” In my book, what we are doing is proper neofolklore because we just don’t pick up traditional songs and add distorted guitars and heavy/black metal sounds. Most of the songs start as mere tunes I hum and record using whatever tool I happen to have at hand, and it’s the smartphone almost all the time.
Then, as I get home or to the studio, I grab a guitar and replicate the tune. Most of the time it turns out into a part that is useable or even an entire song theme. Sometimes it’s just useless crap 🙂 In a way, it’s like the peasants of old, who went out into the fields to work the land or to hunt, and they would sing. That’s why I say that we’re doing is actual modern folklore.
In the past bands that work with national/historical themes have often been criticized for or linked to the far right. How do you feel about this and has Bucovina had to face such issues?
Well, I guess there will always be people who feel like they MUST add some of their improperly-founded opinion to the game. Likewise, there will always be people who feel that the NEED to feel offended by one thing or another. Our paths crossed several times and, what can I say, I pity these folks. Instead of trying to see what lays beyond what they BELIEVE things are, they prefer to stir up shit and call bands names, put words in their mouths and so on. Thankfully, we know better and make do and mend.
We simply like Romania and would love to see it fare better these days, and leave a nicer place to live for our kids. We never agreed with the political views of the guy who owned the label that released our first album, and that’s why we put an end to the collaboration. The fact that we dealt with a label that was perceived as being a spearhead in the NS direction affected us in the early years, but through hard work we managed to shake off that burden.
Bucovina is named after a region. Can you explain the choice of name and the significance of the region? I understand that half of Bucovina is part of Ukraine, is that a cause for tension?
Indeed, Bucovina is a region in the north of the country, with its northern half beyond the Ukrainian border. We went for this name because I and Luparul, the other guy playing guitars and vocals, are from Bucovina and wanted to do something for that amazing part of the world.
Well, tension I wouldn’t call it. It’s more like regret, regret for a past where the Soviet Union used to rule that part of Europe and when the western countries left the entire East Block go fuck itself under Soviet dominion.
Honestly, I believe that the wounds of the aggressive Soviet regime will never heal, and this is so fucking disheartening. Nevertheless, I do believe that it’s worth not forgetting the errors of the past and passing a rich heritage to our offspring.
What are the themes and subjects in your music? Can you tell us more about them, since little is known about Romanion paganism, history and so on in this part of the world (and I’m most interested in these).
Well, it would take years to tell you about Romanian lore. We have stories and legends that seem like they could go hand in hand with whatever fiction masterpiece modern history produced, and we are slowly showcasing them in our songs, albeit in a rather laconic way.
Mostly it’s about the relationship between man and nature, and how certain gifted individuals rise above the human condition to become better integrated with the forces that govern the universe. From merely abandoning yourself in contemplation of a sunset in Bucovina’s mountains, to traveling through vales and woods, to the high plains where horses roam by the hundreds, from the secluded small villages where magic is still a part of everyday life, to the everyday thoughts, aspirations and fears, we’re one with them.
Is there in any way a mission or message that you try to convey with Bucovina?
Of course there is, and maybe this is why our albums are rather short. They simply seem to end when we feel like we said what needed to be said in a certain moment. There is no bullshit on any of our albums, and I do hope we keep it that way despite people way they’d enjoy longer albums. If we will have a lengthier message to pass on, you bet your asses that the album carrying it will be longer.
The main message, although it’s not that easy to understand by everyone from the first spin, is that people would do better to try and be who they really are deep inside, while also trying to make the world a better place. Life is too short for crap, and it can end quite abruptly in a thousand ways, so trying to understand as much as possible from the universe almost sounds like a must.
We are a part of nature, whether we like it or not, and despite the fact that some religions are trying to hijack and downplay the message. We often describe our music as being “Of mountains and magic,” and at times, it just couldn’t be any closer to the truth. We like the nature and the magic way it can still oppose the dumbness of the people who think they are the supreme being. We, as a species, may be cool, indeed, but we’re definitely not the icing on the cake 😉
What can you tell about your last album ‘Nestramutat’, which came out in 2015? What is the story you are telling on this record?
The name of the album could be translated to “Unswerving,” and it speaks about how certain individuals with a strong spirit cannot be broken or changed. In a way, it’s like nature/the planet itself: you fuck with it, it will fuck you up in ways that are far worse, and then there is nothing you can do about that. It’s just the fact that you can’t mess with the planet/universe and get away with it.
Or, speaking about people who are so dear to someone that their memory lives on and on even though they have been dead for a long time. A lot of things change, but some don’t. The latest album is about the latter.
What was the recording and writing process like? Does every band member have a specific role in it?
It’s so fucked up that it almost pains me to remember doing the last two albums. We are so chaotic and so reckless that I keep wondering how do we make it. The truth is that we are incredibly lucky to work with DanSwano for mixing and mastering.
The guy is a genius and a gigantic name in metal and prog, and even though we’re not even able yet to tap into a tenth of his true potential, he gets the job done where other would simply fail or deliver mediocre results.
I’ve learned a ton from him and keep doing so each time I get to talk to him. Also, Dan is an amazing person and we get along very well; and I have to thank him for his patience, too. We are independent so we don’t have a production crew, so sometimes, things are friggin’ difficult and downright nasty, but we always manage to pull through.
As for the studio work, another round of thanks go to Maanu, our former keyboard player. He’s the conductor of the NationalOpera choir and his duties and schedule prevent him from touring with us, so we had to part ways. Even so, we’re still in excellent terms, he even has a set of keys to our studio. He helps us with tracking when I am not able to, and we’re also writing some choir parts together. As for roles, everybody is taking care of their own stuff.
Lately, Dan Swano became quite busy and with us not having a very clear schedule of how a new album should progress, things are becoming a bit harder. Nevertheless, we worked with Martin Buchwalter, the drummer of Perzonal War, who is also a studio producer, and the first results – the Asteapta-ma Dincolo (de Moarte) single turned out great. We’ll see what the future brings…
Currently you’re self-releasing your music. What prompted that choice? What is the story with the label Lupii Daciei?
It was a lousy choice we made without fully understanding that the fellow with whom we were dealing (a chap from an obscure label that had signed us) was more interested in pursuing his dumb neo-nazi racist shit than he was in metal. We are a bit nationalist, but not in a way that relates to such political crap.
We disliked (and still do) the direction things were heading for, because we’re not fighting a fucking racial war here. We don’t hate Jews, black people, the Slavs, we don’t believe in Aryan ideology, race purity, untermensch and all the crap. We don’t need any Heil Hitler and swastikas in our music to find a purpose for what we are doing.
We realized that the label’s purpose was in no way close to our expectations so we called it a day. If anything, I could be mad at ourselves for making the deal in the first place, but young people DO make mistakes, ain’t that true?
As for releases, yes, we are a completely independent band and we plan to stay that way. We’re doing just fine, as it looks like being true to yourself and not write music just to have another track on the upcoming CD pays off. We have the money we need to produce top-notch digipacks, we have our own studio and bus, we can afford mixtering by Dan Swano, also do our own booking and merch.
We can deal for small endorsement deals ourselves, but we’re in no hunger for gear, because we are able to buy what we need and plan to not sell out for the sake of some guitars or other stuff. We CAN manage our own shit. Why would we change that?
Hire some fuck who only thinks about money? Why, it doesn’t make any sense. We are also making our own deals for shows abroad and we enjoy touring on our own efforts. We already toured in Brazil in 2016 and booked nice festivals in Germany this year, with more gigs coming up in Poland, UK, the Czech Republic and more. We are extending our operations, for lack of a better word.
What is the Romanian metal scene like currently? What bands do you think are worth checking out?
Still, the Romanian metal scene is a fairly young one. Before 1989, the Communist regime did not take good of rock and whatever metal people made then, so we can say that we’re a bit behind schedule. Nevertheless, I do perceive some sort of crystallization, with some bands understanding the need of good production, good and – if possible – original sound (even though being completely original is rather impossible).
Without being too stiff, I’d say that we are far too busy trying to make things right here (in the band) to have the time to analyze what exactly is going on around. People have better gear, have learned more about music and some of them are really putting up serious efforts to make it as big as possible.
The Romanian metal scene may be a rather small one but certain things are not different from any other part of the world. We do need people with money to put up records companies and distribution networks, we do need support from the public, and no – nobody becomes a star overnight. We’ve spent like 15 years of sacrifice and hard work until results started to show up the way we wanted. Making good metal is hard. As it ever was.
We do have certain interesting bands, such as Dor de Duh, Hteththemeth, Adamo Caduco (though it’s not metal). Also you could check out Ashaena’s new release, Implant pentru Refuz, Asemic, Bucium or Dara.
Can you tell a bit about the history of metal in Romania? Which bands got it started and when?
There were some feeble metal acts before 1989, but it all started in a rather primitive way after the Revolution, with a mixture of punk, thrash and hardcore-ish bands which are no longer active. We were so hungry for rock back in the day that we enjoyed everything and everything seemed like a godsend for the masses.
Unfortunately I haven’t dedicated time to becoming a metal historian for the scene, therefore it’s impossible for me to speak about this subject. I’d rather say we’re still in the “history in the making” stage.
In 2015 there was the fire in a nightclub in Bucharest that has not only shaken the metal scene, but Romania as a whole. In what way did it affect Bucovina?
The blaze at ClubColectiv put an untimely end to the life of one of our best friends, AdrianRugina. He was not only a great guy, but also one of the best show producers in the country, having worked with the likes of Metallica and Madonna and everything in between. He played drums in Bucium, a folk-rock band we toured with, with whom we released albums together and was a true friend.
He died after returning to the burning club several times and saving other guys, and he became a national hero. Sad to see that people forget way too easily about guys like Rugina. We don’t; both me and Mishu, the drummer, have his name tattooed on our bodies and we wrote a song to his memory. Eventually, the song became the Asteapta-ma dincolo (de moarte) single and we even shot a video for that particular song. Adi goes with us wherever we may roam, he’s not alone and neither are we. He just lives on inside our hearts.
Other thing that changed in Romania after the blaze was that the number of people who can attend a show is now much smaller. Safety, laws, shit like this. In a way it’s better and safer, that’s true, but when you can no longer host 400 people in a place that can handle these guys, things are nasty; and this is because of some small inconvenient stipulated by the law. I do hope things will be better in the future as far as this goes. We have even done two shows back to back in the same place to have all the guys who wanted to see us play well and happy.
What future plans do you guys have as a band?
We are working on a new album for 2018, a special show for the end of 2017, but I can’t tell you more details about this one, at least not now 😉 We intend to dedicate more time to playing shows in Europe and become more professional. Also, new videos are being worked on, albeit in the planning phase, so far. Expect to see us more in Europe in 217 and 2018, with a big South American tour in 2019.
Please use the space here to add anything you feel should be mentioned.
We do feel that we are part of a new wave of bands that managed to raise their heads independently and without having someone pumping money to make us grow. The fact that we are an independent act has its pros and cons, of course, and maybe, when the time is right and the deal is fair, we’ll even take that step to sign a deal with a big production company. Until then, we’re working our asses out to deserve that fair deal. Otherwise, we’re doing fine, and that’s why we’ll keep on delivering fine metal to our fans.
In the furthest, forgotten corner of Europe, in between Romania and Ukraine, you can find the country Moldavia. You might know the country, because in some strange twist of faith, your local football team ended playing a team from there or even your national football team. It’s there where most people’s knowledge of Moldavia ends.
Moldavia became a country on its own in 1991, but historically it’s been a turbulent region. Inhabited by the Dacians in the ancient past, it is said the region gets its name from a combination of the words ‘many’ and ‘fortress’, which would be along the river. Part of the historical, often overrun Moldavia is now part of Romania, the other part being the independent Republic of Moldova.
Moldavia is historically intertwined with Wallachia, Transylvania and Bucovina, all parts of Romania. The historical connection runs deep, even to this very day. The flags are not very different even and there’s talk of unity. On the other hand there’s a pull of Russia on certain autonomous regions. In between, Moldavians find out that they also have their own identity. Harmasar is a band that expresses that nationality and identity through their music and art.
I got to have a chat about this with the band.
Hey, could you kindly introduce yourselves to the readers?
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, greetings! We are HARMASAR and we’re a Folk/Pagan Metal band from the Republic of Moldova.
How did you get together as a band and started out making music? Have you guys played in any metal bands before Harmasar?
The legend says that as a band HARMASAR was born in September 2013 (the day of our first concert), the founding member being Mircea (the drummer). Most of us had some experience of playing in a band before Harmasar, but the majority of these bands were popular and known only among its members.
Tell me about Harmasar? What does the name mean and what is the concept or story you are telling with this band?
Harmasar in Romanian stands for stallion (you know, the one with balls, with testicular integrity). The main message we are trying to present is the one of ‘knowing your roots’, remembering the great and heroic deeds of your ancestors, as well as the idea of conservation of the traditional values.
Our inspiration comes from ancient Moldovan/Romanian folk tunes and music, like doina’s and hora’s. As for bands, we find inspiration in the like of Eluveitie, Arkona, Korpiklaani, Bucovina.
You’ve recently released your debut album ‘Din pământ’. A thunderous folk metal album, that seems to lean close to the more folkish expressions with peculiar traditional instruments and elements. What is the story you are telling on this album?
The closest translation of the title ‘Din pământ’, we guess will be ‘From dirt’ or ‘From dust’, with the meaning of roots, origins. This is also what the album is about.
For people, like me, who know little about the past history of Moldova, can you introduce us into the material. What are the elements you are singing about?
Well, in this album we mostly sing about great battles, fought by our ancestors, so the songs ‘Daoi’ , ‘Tapae’ and ‘Moesia’ are about the war between Dacians and The Roman Empire. ‘Vaslui 1475’ tells us the story of the war between The State of Moldova ( Tara Moldovei ) and the Ottoman Empire and particularly The battle of Vaslui. On the other hand there are also songs that criticize human vices and corruption such as ‘Națiunea’ and ‘Porcu’.
Well, the main messages in ‘Natiunea’ is to stand for the ideas you believe in. People should always remember who they are and where they are from: standing for the ideas that you believe in and always remembering who you are and where you do come from. In ‘Porcu’ the idea is to not let yourself be manipulated by anyone, especially by political forces and other empowered entities. Literally, it tells about not becoming a pig, a creature that is raised without values to be killed and eaten at a whim.
Can you tell us more about the writing and recording process of your album? Is everyone equally involved or is there a clear division of tasks?
Yes, we find it more productive to have a good division of labour and tasks in the band. So the song writing process is performed by Max (the vocalist) mostly, band promotion and graphic design by Ștefan (the bass player) and the events, concerts organisation by Mircea (the drummer).
What sort of traditional elements do you put in your music and which instruments do you use for this?
Well for the rhythmic part we used such elements as Sârba and Hostropăț wich was also used as a traditional tune for panflute as well as ”Ciuleandra”. In addition to the panflute (Nai) we recorded also some flutes (fluier, caval), violins and an accordion.
Let’s discuss the art work, can you say a bit about the artwork you use and the visual aspects of the band? I understand you guys perform also in a traditional outfit?
The artwork was made by our friend Octavian Curoșu with our suggestions, it’s our vision on the album name “Din Pământ”. As our songs are about our ancestors we have decided to wear similar outfit inspired from them with some elements created by us.
The artwork of the album is open for interpretation, we like to see that people find different things in it. In our vision it is a conglomerate, a synthesis of ideas. In Moldova we have a natural reservation called ‘One hundred Hills’ or ‘Suta de Movile’, which consists of a large group of hills of different sizes. According to the legends these are considered to be ancient warrior’s tombs. So basically the hill on the picture has the signification of an ancestral grave, a tomb representing at the same time: the end, the past, our history and roots. On the other hand this hill is also a mother’s womb, with a child to be born, the foetus representing the future, the birth of a new generation. So essentially it is like a synergy between these two ideas, past and future, like the Phoenix rises from its ashes, the child is waiting to be born from the grave of his ancestors.
Can you tell me a bit about metal in Moldova? How did it get started in your country and which bands pioneered the genre?
As we know, till this time there were and are a lot of metal bands here in Moldova, but the most remarkable one was Accident (Death/Thrash Metal) that was formed in 1988.
What is the scene like now? Where is it centred and do you guys have relations with bands from neighbouring countries?
The scene is centred mostly in Chisinau, the capital of RM, where you can find several places for bands to play live, and also some open air festivals during the summer. We have some good friends in Romania and Bulgaria playing in a well-known bands there with witch is always a pleasure to hang out and play some shows together.
Which bands from Moldova do you think people should check out and why these ones?
You can check out ABNORMYNDEFFECT – this is a Polyrhythmic Grindcore/ Death Metal band that is one of the most appreciated of its style in Europe. Their songs are about our social and political problems.
What future plans does Harmasar have?
The most primary for us now is to have a tour for supporting our debut album in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and other countries. To meet with our great fans from there and to reach a new audience.
About other plans we cannot tell, yet…
If you had to compare your music to a dish (food), what would it be and why?
I don’t know any dish that I can compare to our music, but probably it would be a Grilled Ottoman with some bloody sauce, but we haven’t tasted it yet. (joking, referring to the bloody history in wars with the Ottoman empire)
The first dish that came up in my mind is Ciorbă de Văcuță (beef broth), it helped us a lot to survive tough mornings during the past tours.
Folk metal ain’t dead, y’all! Sure, Finntroll has become a joke, Alestorm has descended into madness and I don’t even know what happened to Turisas, but there’s still hope. From countries you might not even know about great tunes are coming forth. Ūkanose is one of those bands from Lithuania who create some waves with the self-titled debut.
Lithuanian folk music is heavily characterised by ritualistic chanting and war songs, they have a special quality to them. They feel outlandish, magical and somewhat overwhelming at times. Ūkanose manages to incorporate that into their metal music. So we don’t have a band playing metal with some fiddles, but a genuine blend and that for me is the magic of folk metal.
The songs of Ūkanose offer a specific sadness, a weariness of live and look to the past you also find in Slavic bands like Drudkh. An accordeon gives a bit of a jolly feel to some of the songs, but what really it does is create that continuous flow that is so important in the Baltic music. It makes it also very easy for a listener to jump into their music and feel the passage of time in a more calm and natural way. There’s a closeness to nature in the sound, to tradition and folklore. You don’t even need to understand the lyrics for that.
Ūkanose translates as fog, which is a good metaphor for the sound of the band. The pace is slow, but constantly progressing. The vocals are easy, chanted and often in multiple voices. All in all it’s an album that is much closer to the volky sound of Ugniavijas. A favorite track for me is ‘Skrenc bitela’. The calm repetition of the vocals on such a flat tone is hypnotizing but catching. The guitars merely serve as a heavy fundament to build up the song upon.
This record is one that takes you to a different time and age. It takes you to dancing around the fire in praise of forgotten gods. Noteworthy is the song ‘Gerkime’, a CorvaxCorax cover. This music comes from a genuine place, not just one where you raise drinking horns wearing a kilt. Well worth a listen.